The Sopan festival showed that Sahitya Kala Parishad is doing something right!
Even for a dancer who believes he should be on the cutting edge of new trends in dance, a tireless espousal of the guru to keep art roots well nourished will ensure that his art remains on course, not straying away into diminished identity. Even in the fragmented world of impermanence, the teacher's place has not lost its pre-eminence. One of Delhi Sahitya Kala Parishad's enduring projects, amongst many that have come and gone, is Sopan, in which the Parishad's scholarship holders in dance and music are featured. After a two- year stint of Rs.1,500 monthly, for outstanding talent to pursue further training, Sopan provides a platform where the teacher/taught duo is showcased. This year's focus on two dancers, Anuradha Venkataraman, trained under Bharatanatyam Guru Saroja Vaidyanathan, and Swapan Majumdar, a Chhau disciple of Sashidharan Na ir studying at the Shri Ram Bharatiya Kala Kendra for well nigh six years, showed that the Parishad's scheme is not in vain. Arguably one of the finest success stories of teacher Saroja Vaidyanathan, Anuradha has always impressed with her combination of talent and dedication. The Papanasam Sivan varnam in Dhanyasi "Nee inda maayam" in the nayika's lovingly chiding query addressed to Krishna if his teasing prankster's acts are indeed just, saw a dancer perform with involved mind and body. The charanam re frain, "Aayar kulam deepame, arul taarai" suddenly changes into a devotee's reverential tone. Despite the singer's occasional waywardness injecting the odd flat note into the generally melodious music, Anuradha danced with unabashed élan. To end the reci tal on a devotional note was the Bhajan "Ramchandra sukha daayi" .Swapan Mazumdar's poised and balanced technical mastery in Chhau came as a pleasant surprise. One has seen this dancer in very inspiringly portrayed roles in dance drama but never as a sol o Chhau dancer. What was particularly wise was sticking to orthodox items. Further, this dancer has gone to the home of Mayurbhanj Chhau in Orissa to learn from Oriya teachers like Ramachandra Das. Sashidharan's generosity in including what the youngster had imbibed from his training under the Orissa Chhau guru, with what he had to impart as training after years under Guru Krishnachandra Nayak, has made for a fine integrated performer. Both Dandi, where a youth in quest of a life of renunciation sets of f on his journey with kamandal and modest bundle of belongings tied to a stick, and Sabar, the dance of the hunter who celebrates his triumph in getting the better of a tiger, were performed with commendable skill. And then came that piece de resi stance of the Mayurbhanj Chhau repertoire, Nataraj, depicting different moods of Shiva. The authentic Chhau feel was reinforced by the traditional music with musicians from Orissa. With the innovative dance encounters in Shri Ram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, i t is good that Swapan has kept his feet firmly grounded in tradition.
Performing for the Broadcasting Engineers Association a Kuchipudi recital at the Habitat basement was veteran Hyderabad Bharatanatyam/Kuchipudi dancer Ananda Shankar, who successfully combines working for the Indian railways with a dance career. "Solo Kuchipudi is still evolving says Ananda "for it is a recent creation during th e time of Lakshminarayan Sastry. The absence of a prescribed solo format like the Bharatanatyam margam is a blessing in disguise, for it gives freedom to the dancer to address a contemporary audience. After the robust and earthy Yakshagana in Kuchipudi v illage, the urban sophistication perhaps overplayed the sensuous element. My guru Ramalinga Sastry never approved of all those mini torso movements. War and peace are favourite themes along with women's issues. But what about the costume? You cannot have all this finery. Be contemporary in every way." But for the broadcast engineers, Ananda tried nothing new. The pushpanjali in Amritavarshini was followed by Dasavataram, Prema Ramamurthy's ragamalika score in energetic Khanda Chapu tala calling for a si nger whose voice did not lose steam once too often. Tarangam was preceded by Krishna's lilas. The audience approved wholeheartedly, though this critic would have settled for more internalised abhinaya.